Another long-dreaded piece of transfer news has finally been confirmed today. Callum Wilson is leaving Coventry City, to join Bournemouth. It wasn’t long ago that Bournemouth were in a similar, if not much worse, situation to the one we are currently in. They were in League Two with a heavy points deduction and a rookie manager in Eddie Howe, oh, and they were operating under a permanent transfer embargo. However Howe proved to be a revelation in the managerial hot-seat and now Bournemouth are the bigger club and have pulled off a multi-million pound transfer deal. Perhaps there’s some crumb of comfort in Bournemouth’s revitalisation as a football club, currently though they’ve just signed one of the few idols that this football club has produced in recent years.
Wilson has come a long way in a short space of time at the club. This time last year, there would have only been a mild sense of disappointment had he been released at the end of his contract. Over the course of last season he took what was his final opportunity to make it at Coventry City with both hands. His goal-scoring record of 21 in 37 appearances is even more remarkable given that he missed just under 2 months of the season with injury and was parted from his strike partner, Leon Clarke, half-way through the season.
What’s been the most enjoyable element of watching Callum Wilson over the past season has been seeing him both improve as a player and become more of a leader. In the first ‘home’ game of the season against Bristol City, Wilson looked like a player who relied heavily on his pace to create goal-scoring opportunities. The 5-4 scoreline that day would have been far more comfortable for Coventry had Wilson shown more composure in front of goal on the several occasions that he was clean through on goal. Despite scoring twice, Wilson’s performance was vaguely reminiscent of John Salako’s stints in attack in the mid-90s for the club.
The difference between Wilson and Salako though became clear over the course of the next month. Whilst Salako allowed his misses to affect his confidence, Wilson was able to learn from his mistakes to adapt and improve his performances. The win over Colchester United just one month later demonstrated how much Wilson had learned in such a short space of time. His goals that day, a poacher’s effort from a rebounded shot and a cool rounding of the keeper, evidenced this improvement.
Those who were there also began to see the importance of Leon Clarke to Wilson’s game. The most obvious reason why Clarke allowed Wilson to perform so well was the fact that defences were occupied with dealing with the threat of the more experienced Clarke, giving room for Wilson to exploit. Additionally Clarke dropping deep acted as a pivot between midfield and attack, this meant that Wilson’s blistering pace could be used to full effect with defences pushing forward in an attempt to prevent Clarke affecting the game.
Over the course of the next few months, Coventry fans also realised that the duo’s understanding was far greater than how they affected the opposition. It always seemed as if Wilson and Clarke enjoyed playing with each other, something that can be said of very few strike partnerships at the club since the days of Huckerby and Dublin. The wins over Sheffield United and Peterborough at Sixfields were the games that best demonstrated the effectiveness of this strike partnership.
The eventual departure of Leon Clarke at the end of the January transfer window cast doubts over Wilson’s effectiveness in attack. The assumption was that Wilson was too young to adapt his game to being the sole attention of opposition defenders. These doubts weren’t eased by a shoulder injury that Wilson picked up in the New Year’s Day win over Rotherham that ruled him out for just under two months. The main argument in Wilson’s favour during his injury-enforced absence from the first-team was the performances of the several loan players signed to bolster our beleaguered attacking line-up.
His return in the 0-0 draw with Shrewsbury at the beginning of March went a long way to easing the doubts over Wilson’s ability to lead the line. From the kick-off, he robbed Shrewsbury from the centre circle, demonstrating his willingness to press for the good of the team. His form over the following month came from his work-rate and desire to sacrifice himself for the good of the team. In 8 games following his return from injury, Wilson scored 7 goals which went a long way to eventually securing the club’s survival in League One for another season longer.
Wilson leaves Coventry as one of the few that fans will genuinely want to see do well at another club. He played in the way that most fans would have wanted to for Coventry. He was committed to the cause both on the pitch with his work-rate, and off the pitch with his regular comments about his desire to stay at the club. Callum Wilson is one of the few people related to this football club who has actually benefited from our enforced exile from Coventry. At the beginning of last season, he was lost in the system at the club, behind a crop of largely average players who had bigger reputations. Wilson has proven the benefit of placing faith in local talent and his example will allow youngsters such as George Thomas and James Maddison to follow in his footsteps knowing there will be a reward for hard work.
With the club sparking to life in the transfer market with both Danny Swanson and Jim O’Brien signing in recent days, there’s a feeling of regeneration in the first-team squad. The arrival of Ryan Allsop on loan from Bournemouth gives us a proven League One performer in goal. Whilst Mohamed Coulibaly is an unknown quantity, having played just 6 league games for the Cherries, our recent transfer activity protects us from having to use him is he turns out to be a flop.
The main concern with the sale of Wilson is where the money will go. With SISU having lost in the courts but promising an appeal, the worry is that this money will go towards fighting another frivolous legal battle. For SISU, the sale of Wilson presents a rare opportunity to earn money from a club that has been haemorrhaging funds during their tenure. On the plus side, the two loan players allow us to field something approaching a competitive first 11. However should they do well Bournemouth benefit from their development, if they flop we take the hit from it. It feels like the next month or so will give fans a better indication of SISU’s true intentions for the club.